Redesigned for the 2000 model year, the Nissan Maxima offers a roomier cabin, a bigger trunk, improved handling and more horsepower from its award-winning 222 horsepower 3.0 litre DOHC 24 valve V6 engine.
Roomy new Maxima still has the best V-6 engine
Completely redesigned this year, the 2000 Maxima is bigger, more powerful, more refined, and LESS expensive than the previous Maxima, last redesigned in 1995. Yes, the price has actually gone down on SE and GLE models while the base GXE model is priced the same but has more standard equipment. 2000 Maxima SE’s are priced at $34,000, a drop of $2,749 from the 1999 MSRP; top-of-the-line GLE models are $34,900, a drop of $2,648. Maxima GXE models are $28,590 but have about $2,000 worth of additional standard equipment.
The Maxima’s exterior dimensions have increased moderately while interior room has increased substantially. Externally, the new Maxima is 1.1 in. longer and 0.6 in. wider with a wheelbase that is 2.0 in. longer. That longer wheelbase and extra body width translate into a significantly roomy interior – about 2.4 cubic feet bigger, and larger than every other car in its class. The Maxima’s roomy 15.1 cubic feet trunk has also increased in size by 1.2 cubic feet.
The Maxima’s new styling is most distinctive from the rear where round red tailights inset in a triangular perimeter stand out from a gracefully sculpted tail. SE models feature a blacked out tail lenses for a sportier look. Other noteworthy styling features include prominent wheel arches and fender flares, a larger ‘greenhouse’, a prominent grille, and new-shape headlamps.
Since it was introduced in 1995, the Maxima’s ‘VQ’ V6 engine has been its best feature, in my opinion. Unusually smooth and free-revving, the Nissan-designed VQ engine makes a big contribution to the Maxima’s reputation as a sports sedan. The influential U.S. industry publication, Ward’s Automotive Reports, recently named this engine ‘the best V6 available in America’.
Refined even further for the 2000 model year, the DOHC 24 valve 3.0 litre V6 ‘VQ’ engine now pumps out 222 horsepower, an increase of 32 horsepower over last year. Maximum torque has also risen from 205 lbs-ft to 217 lbs-ft at 4000 rpm. Horsepower was bumped up by using a revised air intake system, and a new variable capacity muffler that allows freer exhaust flow above 3000 rpm.
Even with all this horsepower, the engine’s fuel consumption is reasonable for a mid-sized sedan: 12.2 l/100 km (26 mpg) in the city, and 7.7 l/100 km (38 mpg) on the highway when equipped with the automatic transmission.
With 222 horsepower, the 3.0 litre VQ can now claim to be the most powerful V6 engine in its class: more powerful than its major V6 competitors in the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Mazda 626, Hyundai Sonata, and Toyota Avalon.
As before, base GXE and SE Maximas are offered with a standard 5-speed manual transmission, something not available in most mid-sized V6 sedans. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional on GXE and SE, and standard on the top-of-the-line GLE model. To handle the engine’s extra power, the automatic transmission has been strengthened this year. In addition, Maxima’s equipped with an automatic transmission come with standard Traction Control to prevent wheelspin on slippery surfaces.
The Maxima’s suspension remains basically the same: independent front strut with coil springs and stabilizer bar, and rear beam axle with stabilizer bar. However, the Multi-Link Beam suspension has some revisions which improve steering control and handling. A relocated lateral link and thicker stabilizer bars have reduced body roll and improved high speed stability. As well, the longer wheelbase and suspension refinements have improved the Maxima’s ride. As before, GXE models have standard 15 inch radials, but SE models are available with 16 inch or 17 inch performance radials. GLE Maximas have standard 16 inch tires. All Maxima’s come with standard four-wheel disc brakes and ABS.
Inside the new Maxima, a redesigned dashboard features unusually large dials and buttons with large, easy-to-read script, and new air vents with wide slats that can be closed to improve the appearance of the dashboard. The center dash area sweeps in a flowing arc to the base of the windshield, and looks very attractive. An improved driving position makes controls easier to reach and is generally more comfortable. A center armrest/storage bin will hold up to 16 CD’s, and some models have a unique height-adjustable centre armrest.
Headroom and legroom are generous: there’s almost an inch more legroom in front and two inches in the rear, and about half an inch more front headroom. The new cabin, which has more window glass, has a feeling of spaciousness and light to it, and with more glass, outward visibility is better too.
Some safety features added to the 2000 Maxima include pipe-style side impact beams in the doors, reinforcements to the roof side rails, B-pillars and side sills, next generation front airbags, and optional side airbags on Maxima’s with leather upholstery.
Though larger and a little heavier, the new Maxima doesn’t feel ungainly. In fact, it exhibits excellent poise in sudden switchbacks and a high level of grip when cornering quickly. There is some body lean, but once the Maxima takes a stance, it stays there. The lack of an independent rear suspension is only apparent on bumpy roads at high speed where the Maxima feels a little more skittish. But for the most part, this is an excellent handling, and comfortable sedan.
Compared to its V6 rivals, the Accord, Camry, Sonata, and 626, the Maxima is considerably sportier, not to mention roomier.
For a base price of $28,590, the Maxima GXE includes the 222 horsepower 3.0 litre V6 engine, manual 5-speed transmission, 205/65R-15 inch radials mounted on steel wheels, disc brakes with ABS, air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette with four speakers, power windows and door locks, lockable 60/40 folding rear seat, 8-way manually adjustable driver’s seat and 4-way adjustable passenger seat, tilt steering, variable intermittent wipers, dual airbags, remote keyless entry, power heated mirrors, engine-speed sensitive power steering, and four cupholders.
The sporty Maxima SE, for $34,000, adds 225/50R-17 inch radials and alloy wheels, a stiffer suspension, limited slip differential, blackened grille and taillights, rear spoiler, leather upholstery, titanium coloured gauges, automatic climate control, Bose 200 watt AM/FM/CD stereo with seven speakers, power moonroof, power heated front seats, and side airbags.
Top-of-the-line GLE models, at $34,900, include most of the SE’s luxury features plus a standard automatic transmission, traction control, elctronically-controlled engine mounts, and 215/55R16 inch radials.
Like previous Maximas, the 2000 Nissan Maxima remains the black sheep of the import V6 sedan class. Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Hyundai all have V6 versions of their four cylinder mid-size sedans (the Camry, Accord, 626 and Sonata respectively), but Nissan does not have a V6 version of its four cylinder Altima, offering the Maxima instead. The Maxima may also compete with near luxury sedans like the Lexus ES300, Audi A4, Mazda Millenia, and even the Infiniti I30, the Maxima’s Infiniti equivalent.
According to Nissan, the Maxima remains the best-selling import V6 sedan in its class in North America with about 1.7 million sold in the past 18 years. From what I’ve seen, the new Maxima is likely to continue that tradition.
|Second Opinion – Nissan Maxima SE
Grant Yoxon, editor, Autos
Well, that’s all changed now. Not only is the new Maxima a great performance car, it’s starting to look the part too. A racier looking front end and a distinctive rear treatment give it the performance sedan image that, until now, it has been lacking.
Many Nissan owners however, liked the fact that the Maxima looked like grandma’s Sunday driver. All the better to avoid unwanted attention. And I’m sure there will be many Maxima loyalists who will think Nissan has gone too far in this make-over.
But as soon as they drive this car, that will change.
The seat is firm and comfortable. Controls are well-positioned. The titanium analog gauges are attractive and easy to read. The centre arm rest is height adjustable for relaxed shifting for both short and tall drivers.
And it is a good shifter too, just slightly notchy. Quick, firm shifts are a breeze. Nissan publicists describe the Maxima as “a road car with an Autobahn flavor,” but to my mind, this is a car better experienced on the back roads than the freeway, roads with lots of up and down shifting.
It is also the back roads that will reveal the excellent cornering ability of this car. Without getting into the technical details of the suspension improvements, it is enough to say the Maxima is rock solid in the corners.
But if city streets and freeways are where you do your driving, you will find the Maxima equally at home. It is quiet. You will never know you have an engine, until you put your foot down and then you hear it and feel it. 100 km/h comes up awful fast.
The Nissan Maxima has always been a driver’s car. It still is.